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The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) has implemented numerous changes to the taxonomic classification of bunyaviruses over the years. Whereas most changes have been justified and necessary because of the need to accommodate newly discovered and unclassified viruses, other changes are a cause of concern, especially the decision to demote scores of formerly recognized species to essentially strains of newly designated species. This practice was first described in the seventh taxonomy report of the ICTV and has continued in all subsequent reports. In some instances, viruses that share less than 75% nucleotide sequence identity across their genomes, produce vastly different clinical presentations, possess distinct vector and host associations, have different biosafety recommendations, and occur in nonoverlapping geographic regions are classified as strains of the same species. Complicating the matter is the fact that virus strains have been completely eliminated from ICTV reports; thus, critically important information on virus identities and their associated biological and epidemiological features cannot be readily related to the ICTV classification. Here, we summarize the current status of bunyavirus taxonomy and discuss the adverse consequences associated with the reclassification and resulting omission of numerous viruses of public health importance from ICTV reports. As members of the American Committee on Arthropod-borne Viruses, we encourage the ICTV Bunyavirus Study Group to reconsider their stance on bunyavirus taxonomy, to revise the criteria currently used for species demarcation, and to list additional strains of public and veterinary importance.
Authors’ addresses: Bradley J. Blitvich, Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, E-mail: email@example.com. Barry J. Beaty and Carol D. Blair, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Aaron C. Brault and Ann M. Powers, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO, E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Gerhard Dobler, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Munich, Germany, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael A. Drebot, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, Canada, E-mail: email@example.com. Andrew D. Haddow, Department of Entomology, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, MD, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Laura D. Kramer, Zoonotic Diseases, New York State Department of Health, Slingerlands, Albany, NY, and Wadsworth Center, Albany, NY, E-mail: email@example.com. Angelle Desiree LaBeaud, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thomas P. Monath, Hookipa Biotech AG, Townsend, WA, E-mail: email@example.com. Eric C. Mossel, Arboviral Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kenneth Plante, Robert B. Tesh, and Scott C. Weaver, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, E-mails: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. Michael J. Turell, VectorID LLC, Frederick, MD, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Nikos Vasilakis, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Galveston, TX, E-mail: email@example.com.